The Matchmaker

Story By Gabriella Keren

Drawing by Gabriella Keren

Many, many years ago, when I came to Jerusalem, I landed in a yeshiva for the newly repentant. Aside from teaching us Chumash and Mishna, the rabbis and faculty were eager to marry us off, the sooner, the better. I was never put through the trial of going out on dates (shiduchim) because I was already engaged and later married. Nevertheless, I was a silent observer and confidante. This is what happened to my best friend and hevruta, let's say her name was Gittel.

I was witness to each and every one of the steps she took in finding her "zivug". Encouraged by the rabbis and their wives, Gittel had been conditioned to believe that the only foreseeable future for her was raising a large family, under the inspiration and direction of a Talmid Chacham.

Within the circles of yeshiva students, prospects were referred by a Shidduch macher. Couples to be "or not to be" met at the lobbies of hotels to discuss the deal. These encounters lasted anywhere from a few minutes to ten meetings, provided things were serious and promised to end under the wedding canopy. In Gittel's case, that's exactly where they ended.

The first prospect was a fellow named Moshe. Tall, handsome and intelligent, Moshe managed to entangle Gittel in the charming web of his red beard. Everything about him had mystique. His fingers were long and expressive. He was learned and eloquent and had a deep, deep voice.

To make a long story longer, Gittel fell in love with Moshe, who seemed like a suitable prospect. During their first few encounters at the lobbies of hotels, Gittel and Moshe discussed child rearing and education, religious observance, family and who was going to be the breadwinner. Their relationship appeared to be serious, an idyllic prelude to a love nest. But……..

We were all very excited; if it hadn't been for the Shidduch Macher, a third partner in the triangle who enticed Gittel to avoid telling Moshe about an incident that happened in her family. A close relative of Gittel's had fallen ill as a child and spent her life in an institution. It was not a hereditary disease. However, the Shidduch Macher, trying to oil the wheels of fortune, commanded Gittel to sweep her relative under the carpet to avoid awaking unnecessary doubts in Moshe's mind about hereditary illnesses and crippled children.

Gittel inadvertently mentioned her relative and later denied having one at all. Moshe was no fool. Let's not underestimate the talent of Talmudic students to question and identify bugs. Gittel was innocent but plaid guilty. The platonic love affair was brusquely terminated and Gittel was left with a broken heart.

"There is no time to waste on childish feelings and broken dreams", said the Shidduch Macher, as he referred her to the next prospect. However he (the Shidduch Macher) was becoming impatient. If Gittel was silly enough to let go of an opportunity because of her so called "sincerity", all he would offer from now on would be second hand prospects.

The next prospect was an electrician with a Cockney accent. Had we known how handy it is to have an electrician around, we would have looked at him more benevolently. He was no Bruce Willis but he was modest. He had the charm of the Prussians, the savoir faire of the Germans and the happy-go-lucky humor of the Swiss. Needless to tell you, this shidduch did not work out.

From then on, Gittel would prepare annoying artifacts in her purse, such as cigarettes, before leaving the house to meet new prospects. When she wished to cut it off on the spot, she lit a cigarette. And she lit many cigarettes within those few months. Exactly 27.

I left the country and returned on time for Gittel's engagement party. It was a modest affair in a hall in Romema. First I saw Gittel, dressed to kill in her St. Laurent outfit and red designer boots. Then came Yankel in his long gabardine coat and black hat. He was very modest and subdued. Gittel said she was happy. Our friendship remained intact.

Three children and ten years later, Gittel and Yankel were divorced and Moshe married somebody else and had two crippled children. The question that remains is: "What became of the Shidduch Macher? " Does he still deserve a front seat in the World to Come?


About Gabriella Keren

Hear O Israel

Insights In The Midst Of Chaos

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